MSU Research Reports Sagging Areas in Pandemic Teaching

A survey from Michigan State University’s Education Policy Innovation Collaborative found teachers are struggling to find students and maintain attendance during virtual school.

New research has found that the difficulties for teachers teaching during COVID lie beyond simply learning the new technology to teach and that is leaving students, particularly in urban areas, behind

The survey, conducted by Michigan State University’s Education Policy Innovation Collaborative (EPIC), found that 40 percent of teachers and 55 percent of principals had trouble in many cases simply locating students to attend classes online. Once they did, 52 percent of teachers and 70 percent of principals said that they then had difficulty maintaining attendance.

The EPIC research is ongoing to learn more about how and why school districts are making choices during the COVID-19 pandemic when it comes to teaching students.

Why hybrid learning and not full remote learning? Why in-person learning? How much instruction are teachers given to learn technology to help them teach and what impact does that have? And how are students learning?

The research, including the survey, was conducted in the spring of 2020 and then again in the fall of 2020 and released earlier in April.

The report noted: “Teachers working in districts with high proportions of economically disadvantaged students or high proportions of Black students reported greater challenges with both finding students and maintaining student attendance. These challenges reinforce concerns about potential learning loss, especially for students in Michigan districts that have been traditionally underserved.”

In its recommendations to how teachers and administrators can learn from and improve on instruction in remote and hybrid settings, the researchers said bolstering student attendance and engagement should remain a top priority.

“Educators, especially those working in districts with high proportions of Black, Latinx, and economically disadvantaged students, expressed concerns about students’ access to instruction, supports and their overall well-being,” the report says. “Educators have focused this year on maintaining and rebuilding student academic performance and socioemotional health, but this depends on knowing where students are and being able to keep them engaged in schoolwork.”

Teachers were asked in the survey how concerned they were about how COVID changed schooling when it comes to the health and safety of students who need external support services, those who are homeless, students missing opportunities for social interaction with peers and those affected by grief and trauma related to COVID. Sixty-seven percent of teachers were concerned about health and safety while 73 percent of principals reported concerns about students affected by grief and trauma.

Teachers also expressed concerns about the quality of special education provided with remote or hybrid models of teaching. When it came to the services and instruction for students with behavior-related issues, 62 percent of teachers believed the quality was negatively affected and 61 percent of teachers felt that quality was negatively affected for students with speech, language or visual impairments. In urban districts, those numbers rated higher.

When it comes to special education, the report recommends improving current special education procedures while school is affected by the pandemic as well as adjusting special education services in upcoming school years. “Policymakers and educators must continue to advocate for special education services to ensure that all students receive proper and adequate instruction as schools and districts transition back to face-to-face learning,” the study said.


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